How to write a research question

What is a Research Question?

A research question should mean to be a precise guide for the inquiry a researcher undertakes. It encapsulates the specific query a researcher thrive to address through their study, with the research’s conclusion directly responding to this question. By portraying the goal and scope of the research, a well-crafted research question directs the investigation along the appropriate path for data exploration, ensuring a focused and purposeful study.

Moreover, research questions are aptly named, as they are inherently tied to the research process. The research question may change constantly when the researcher move more into the already existing literature, which allow them to refine and modify their research question. More extensive studies regularly incorporate multiple research questions to explore various aspects of the topic under investigation, while a small research topic concentrate more on a single research question.

Steps to Develop a Good Research Question

Prior to start the writing process for your research paper, it is important to develop a well-crafted research question. Some important key points to be kept in mind for formulating a research question are, it should be relevant, meaningful and decided. Formulating such kind of question is a critical task, and the following tips can simplify the process for you.

Step 1: Start with a broad topic

Initiate your research by selecting a broad topic, providing a comprehensive foundation for in-depth exploration and the identification of multiple sub-topics. Facilitate the formulation of a research question by employing helpful techniques such as brainstorming and concept mapping. When choosing a topic, opt for one that genuinely matches your interest, as this intrinsic motivation will prove invaluable in sustaining your engagement throughout the research process. Indeed, starting with a broad topic which offers writers numerous pathways to study into when searching for a suitable research question. Engaging in discussions and posing thought-provoking questions with friends can also be a valuable method for generating ideas and shaping the direction of your research. I is acute to take into consideration the current interests and trends within the research community when developing your research paper.

Step 2: Do preliminary research to learn about issues related to topic

In some institutions that provide grant for student’s innovations encourage their applicants to undertake a review of already existing literature studies and evidence, this step ensures that potential grantees ascertain whether a recent, comparable study already exists before submitting their grant applications.

At the project’s initialization, engage in preliminary research to achieve two key objectives:

  • Conduct a preliminary literature review to stay updated on the latest developments in your chosen research field that is has been carried out by other researches.
  • Identify and address limitations in existing research, which will lead the way of innovative solutions for you in future.

Step 3: Make your topic compact and determine potential research questions

After acquiring a comprehensive understanding of your chosen research topic, shift your focus to a specific aspect to sharpen your research question. Crafting a research question can be approached through “gap-spotting,” as suggested by Sandberg and Alvesson (2011), where you identify and address limitations in existing projects, or by enhancing earlier projects to contribute to the respective field.

Problematization – It is an alternative way for formatting a research question. It questions and critically examines the assumption that underlines the beliefs or viewpoints of others. It also highlights the significance of incorporating the personal experiences of a researcher in formulating the research question.

Moreover, the practice researchers have a unique advantage of adding their practice to the research in particular areas which are considered as difficult areas. By closely observing patterns and trends in their own professional experiences, they can gain clear knowledge that may lead to the formulation of relevant and meaningful research questions.

Step 4: Evaluate the soundness of your research question

Now, you should have a list of possible research questions. To narrow them down, assess each one of them for factors like clarity, specificity, and relevance. A strong research question, besides being clear and specific, must also be relevant. Consider the following key characteristics, often referred to as the “FINER” framework, to determine whether you have a better research question.

F- Feasible

 They allow researchers to evaluate whether ideas and findings can be molded to be both relevant and sustainable. Researchers should be practical about the scope of their study, considering their capacity to gather information and finish the research work using available skills or resources. Having a plan B is advisable to solve a unexpected problems.


            The research question which you opt to do investigations on is not only interesting to you but also to other community members. That interest keeps you more activated and focused towards your goal.

            Format your research question with the aim of generating new overview within your field of study. This question can serve to expand upon prior findings related to the topic under research study.


            Obtaining approval from review boards and relevant authorities is a critical consideration in crafting a research question. This involves conducting studies with a commitment to principles and standards that ensure the protection, well-being, and rights. 


Your field of research should be relevant and beneficial for common public other than being interesting and novel.

Step 5: Construct your research question properly

Crafting a well-structured research question is crucial for clarity and precision. Two commonly used frameworks for constructing research questions are the PICOT framework and the PEO framework.

PICOT framework

The PICOT framework helps researchers structure their questions. This framework is most used for evidence based research and clinical research. It facilitates the development of research questions that are more focused and clear on the expected outcomes, population to be studied, and the time it takes to get the result.

  • P: Population or the problem or the patients of interest.
  • I: Define the indicator or intervention being studied.
  • C: Try to identify the comparison group.
  • O: Describe about the outcome of interest.
  • T: Describe the time frame for study.

PEO framework

The PEO framework is another structure commonly used for developing research questions, specifically in clinical studies and also helpful in qualitative researches. The PEO framework consists of three key components:

  • P – Population: Describes about the population being studied
  • E – Exposure: Explore the pre-existing conditions
  • O – Outcome : Focus on outcome of interest

Some other frameworks used to frame research questions are:

  • SPIDER (Sample, Phenomenon of Interest, Design, Evaluation, Research type)
  • CLIP (Client group, Location of provided service, Improvement/Information/Innovation, Professionals)

In addition to guiding the formulation of research questions, frameworks such as PICOT, SPIDER, CLIP and PEO plays a crucial role in refining research results, enhancing the format of data analysis. These frameworks not only help the researchers frame their research questions but also help with data analysis and keeps you more focused towards the conclusive result.


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